Serpukhovskoy kissed the moist, fresh lips of the brave sergeant, and, wiping his mouth with his handkerchief, walked up to Vronsky.

`How glad I am!' he said, squeezing his hand and drawing him to one side.

`You look after him,' the colonel shouted to Iashvin, pointing to Vronsky; and he went down below to the soldiers.

`Why weren't you at the races yesterday? I expected to see you there,' said Vronsky, scrutinizing Serpukhovskoy.

`I did go, but late. I beg your pardon,' he added, and turned to the adjutant: `Please have this distributed from me, each man as much as it comes to.'

And he hurriedly took three notes for a hundred roubles each from his pocketbook, and blushed.

`Vronsky! Have a bite or a drink?' asked Iashvin. `Hi, something for the Count to eat! There - drink that.'

The spree at the colonel's lasted a long while.

There was a great deal of drinking. They swung Serpukhovskoy and tossed him in the air. Then they did the same to the colonel. Then, to the accompaniment of the band, the colonel himself danced with Petritsky. Then the colonel, who began to show signs of weakening, sat down on a bench in the courtyard and began demonstrating to Iashvin the superiority of Russia over Prussia, especially in cavalry attack, and there was a lull in the revelry for a moment. Serpukhovskoy went into the house to the bathroom to wash his hands and found Vronsky there - Vronsky was sousing his head with water. He had taken off his coat and put his red hairy neck under the tap, and was rubbing it and his head with his hands. When he had finished, Vronsky sat down by Serpukhovskoy. They both sat down in the bathroom on a lounge, and a conversation began which was very interesting to both of them.

`I've always been hearing about you through my wife,' said Serpukhovskoy. `I'm glad you've been seeing her pretty often.'

`She's friendly with Varia, and they're the only women in Peterburg I care about seeing,' answered Vronsky, smiling. He smiled because he foresaw the topic the conversation would turn to, and he was glad of it.

`The only ones?' Serpukhovskoy queried, smiling.

`Yes; and I heard news of you, but not only through your wife,' said Vronsky, checking Serpukhovskoy's hint by assuming a stern expression. `I was greatly delighted to hear of your success, but not a bit surprised. I expected even more.'

Serpukhovskoy smiled. Such an opinion of him was obviously agreeable to him, and he did not think it necessary to conceal it.

`Well, I, on the contrary, expected less - I'll own up frankly. But I'm glad, very glad. I'm ambitious - that's my weakness, and I confess to it.'

`Perhaps you wouldn't confess to it if you hadn't been successful,' said Vronsky.

`I don't suppose so,' said Serpukhovskoy, smiling again. `I won't say life wouldn't be worth living without it, but it would be dull. Of course I may be mistaken, but I fancy I have a certain capacity for the line I've chosen, and that if there is to be power of any sort in my hands, it will be better than in the hands of a good many people I know,' said Serpukhovskoy, with beaming consciousness of success; `and so the nearer I get to it, the better pleased I am.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

Previous chapter/page Back Home Email this Search Discuss Bookmark Next chapter/page
Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.